Date of Award

Spring 5-10-2019

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Interdisciplinary Program


Sid Mitchell

Second Committee Member

Richard Powell

Third Committee Member

Barbara Blazej


All independent college preparatory schools maintain that they teach their students leadership and provide opportunities for character development. In addition, most colleges and universities are looking for students who possess strong character and leadership skills. With few exceptions, the leadership and character development programs of most independent schools do nothing more than provide students with opportunities to lead their peers through election to student government, the appointment of captains on sports teams, or through the leadership of non-athletic extra curricular activities such as clubs, yearbook, drama productions, or Model U.N. Typically these opportunities are supported and enhanced by surrounding the students with examples of character and leadership present in the school’s faculty, with the hope that before they graduate, the students will have somehow become good leaders. This model for teaching leadership skills and character development is outdated. The world has changed significantly and the pull on young people to stray from the development of good character, solid work habits, and upstanding citizenship is ceaseless and omnipresent. To help students develop and meet the challenges they face in the 2000’s, independent schools must engage in a more purposeful instruction in character development and leadership. There are schools and universities that take purposeful approaches to the teaching of character development and leadership. Interviews with school leadership from The Haverford School, The Hyde School, Eagle Academy, The Pennington School and The United States Naval Academy, provided insights into some of the best practices in schools that have centered their school cultures on character development and the teaching of leadership. Other research focused on the learning habits, social structures and societal challenges, faced by adolescent boys and girls in the present day. A program in character development and leadership skills for high school students must represent a school wide cultural shift to a curriculum steeped in good character and leadership instruction. The program presented is centered on the introduction of a culture based in honor principals and restorative justice, a year of direct classroom instruction in character development and leadership for every student, and four years of project-based curriculum where students will participate in, and eventually lead, school wide projects in community service, environmental sustainability, social justice, and team leadership. To reach a student body of diverse learners, the curriculum for the character development and leadership program utilizes an interdisciplinary approach, multimedia presentations, hands-on learning opportunities, healthy motivational competition, and the ability for students to gain leadership opportunities in their areas of personal interest. Moreover, because the program presented provides for character and leadership instruction for every student in the school, the student body is comprised of and surrounded by a culture of leadership and character.